The act of giving: getting personal.

In my quest to learn more about philanthropy and humanitarianism, I did what I’m sure many other people in my position do: I ‘google’ searched. That’s right, I typed “philanthropy” into the search box, selected google from the drop down menu on the tool bar and clicked the search icon.

Up came numerous sites ranging from descriptions to organisations but the first that caught my eye was a uk based website called http://www.philanthropyuk.org This site opens with a simple description of what philanthropy means (which you could find in any dictionary, but essentially means charitable giving), followed by various tabs for further advice and information.

What I particularly liked, before I’d even got to grips with its basics, was that it very clearly offers free bulletins and a quarterly magazine! Whoop! These are sent to your inbox, not hard copies. But still.

Social investment

The first article I read within the new’s section was titled as above, but I was quite disappointed to discover how sparse it was. I would have loved to see lots of communities had been banding together to make changes to their neighbourhoods with events and fundraisers. But that wasn’t the case, though I do hope it happens somewhere in the UK.

What it does outline though are donations that have been sent from HSBC into a social enterprise fund. As the site says:

HSBC has donated £4m to the social enterprise fund Big Issue Invest. The fund has a target of £10m, which it hopes to reach by March 2012. So far, it has attracted £8m..

It aims to invest in social enterprises that have the potential to have a significant social impact and provide a financial return to investors of at least 5%. The Fund has already invested £1.1m in four social enterprises.

Initial investments in the Fund have been made by M&G Investments fund manager Eric Lonergan, Deutsche Bank, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) and the Ulster Community Investment Trust.

The article goes on to talk of work done with offenders by the The Peterborough Social Impact Bond (more information on this can be found at http://www.socialfinance.org.uk/resources/social-finance/SF_Peterborough_SIB.pdf) to encourage rehabilitation in an effort to reduce the number of repeat convictions.

Whilst both of these in themselves sound like very commendable plans, the emphasis seems to be on investors receiving a return. It sure is great that these companies are forking out such humongous chunks of money, but it isn’t really philanthropy if they expect something back, is it? So why does it find its way onto a site aimed at those charitable souls in the world?

Effective giving

This section outlined a framework on how to give money to causes in a way that suggested it required much thought and consideration. In this section, it highlighted that donations needed to be “responsible”.

Whilst I’m loathe to throw money into the empty Starbuck’s cup before those affectionately termed ‘street urchins’, I do believe that no person would sit in the bitter colds of winter without good reason. In this instance, if my own purse allows, I may well purchase food or drink for them, which I would often receive a scowl or snide remark from a passerby.

We live in a society where many have grown up conditioned to hate charity, to find any excuse not to feel empathy, or unwilling to build rapport with these people. And people they are. They are not animals left to wander the wilds, they are humans that, for whatever reason, have ended up in so desperate a state that they feel it necessary to resort to such measures.

If you like, you me lecture me on how you believe them to be junkies or con artists but, so far, few have not been genuinely grateful at just being acknowledged as a human being.

“Yes, I do exist!” they may well cry. Have you ever stood, just for a few minutes, and watched a spot where a ‘beggar’ is sat? Have you noticed how many people give them a wide berth? How few even acknowledge that they have spoken? Just watch their faces. Watch the beggar’s face. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Would you really be sat out there for so damn long if you didn’t need to be?

I’m not saying you need to go out and donate or offer them shelter. I’m merely imploring you to consider a person’s life choice from a different vantage. We grow up believing a lot of what is told to us without really questioning it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken on this either. I did write a blog post about this last year on my old blog: http://koldham.blog.co.uk/2011/02/03/wide-open-10507155/

Aims and objectives

Taken from the site www.philanthropyuk.org:

Vision

Philanthropy UK’s vision is of a society of engaged citizens which promotes thoughtful and effective giving, and where philanthropy is celebrated as a positive act of civic participation.

Mission

Philanthropy UK has three main aims:

  1. To inspire new givers;
  2. To inform and share knowledge and best practice with all those involved in giving; and
  3. To connect givers to charities, networks and sources of advice and information. These aims are based on our belief that effective giving should be intelligent, innovative, proactive and, above all, enjoyable.

This site still holds the basic principles of a charitable nature as being its reason for existence, but it seems gone are the days that you can donate to a cause without an ulterior motive. You apparently have to draw up plans and agendas, work out where money will be best spent, how it will be used and by whom… I can’t help but think this is more geared as companies rather than individuals with its constant references to wealthy people and their reasons for giving, news of organisations that are supporting one project or another with the promise of a suitable return on their investment, and so on.

It’s personal

However, the site does offer a donor’s section (http://www.philanthropyuk.org/donors) with more general information and personal stories. Links to other resources and further advice.

For me, this seems to be its redeeming feature. But that could just be my opinion, maybe I’m far too sensitive but it just doesn’t seem to be a good start when my perception of “charitable giving” was the act of giving without an expectation of getting  something back. A very simple concept when you strip it back to its fundamentals.

Is our society too far gone for such a thing to be possible anymore?

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